FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rev. Pinkney was Right: It’s Comin’ to Your City Next!

Little bitty Benton Harbor was the testing ground. It was the testing ground to see what they can get away with….It’s comin’ to your city next, whether you like it or not.

— Rev. Edward Pinkney

What do Michigan emergency managers, water rights, illegal corporate land acquisitions, and gentrification have to do with political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney? Rev. Pinkney has been fighting against injustice for decades in the small town of Benton Harbor, Michigan. But, his activism has reached far beyond Benton Harbor, the first city in Michigan to fall under the control of an emergency financial manager (EFM) in 2010.

In July 2014, Pinkney led a defiant protest of approximately 10,000 in Detroit and walked through the city turning the water back on at residences. The bankruptcy of Detroit had begun and the city had been shutting off water to families who hadn’t paid their water bills for even just one month. Everything that the Emergency Financial Manager Law (Public Act 4), by order of the governor’s office, was hitting Detroit with had already occurred in Benton Harbor. Pinkney knew what was coming to Detroit and other cities across the nation.

While Pinkney skillfully organized with activists against the debacle in Detroit, he also led the charge against Whirlpool Corporation (headquartered in Benton Harbor), decrying the loss of jobs outsourced by Whirlpool and the illegal acquisition of public land by Whirlpool front groups to build a 5-star golf resort and multi-million-dollar condominiums that would serve as a Lake Michigan playground for the wealthy elite. Benton Harbor residents, of whom over 90% are Black and nearly half live in poverty according to official statistics, suffered gentrification via lost jobs, the closing of locally owned stores replaced by artisan shops along the lakefront, and a corrupt justice system that incarcerated many poor, and particularly minority, Benton Harbor residents for minor infractions. Pinkney would not back down, would not be silent, would not stop organizing support for people’s rights.

In October 2015, news broke that Flint’s municipal water had poisoned unknown thousands and Gov. Snyder has been at the forefront of the scandal ever since. Normally, we would expect Pinkney to once again be leading in organizing for the needs and rights of the poor and marginalized. Instead Pinkney sits in Marquette Branch Prison in the Upper Peninsula suffering abuse, intimidation, and racism by correctional officers.

Pinkney’s been imprisoned before, once for quoting the Bible. He was also placed on probation after being falsely accused of forging absentee ballots in the recall of Benton Harbor city commissioner Glen Yarbrough and convicted by an all-white jury. Roadblocks such as these would have stopped the average activist, but Pinkney has never stopped fighting for justice. So, what led to his current incarceration? Here’s a timeline of events:

November 2013: Pinkney and another petitioner turned in almost twice the number of signatures required to hold a recall election of James Hightower, token Whirlpool mayor.

April 2014: A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team surrounded Pinkney’s home with orders to bring him in dead or alive. He was charged with 5 felony counts of changing dates on petitions.

Oct 2014: Found guilty by an all-white jury after numerous witnesses supported Pinkney’s innocence with testimonies against the prosecution. One juror perjured herself, and the judge and prosecutor both instructed the jury that it could convict Pinkney with no direct evidence.

Dec 2014: Pinkney sentenced to 2.5-10 years and denied release on bond pending appeal.

August 2015: Pinkney denied bond pending appeal in a 2-1 decision in state court of appeals.

Sept 2015: Appeal was filed by Pinkney Attorney followed up by amicus briefs submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-Michigan and the National Lawyers Guild.

Oct 2015: Pinkney abruptly transferred to Marquette Branch Prison, almost 500 miles from Benton Harbor, where he endures racism, intimidation, and harassment from corrections officers who have written false misconduct tickets for minor infractions (recently, Pinkney was written up for having a Bible on his bed and for having too much legal material). His phone privileges were revoked for six months and he was thrown into solitary confinement for six days after a local televised news report aired in Marquette.

Rev. Pinkney has been a thorn in the side of Whirlpool Corp. and corrupt judicial and government officials from both Berrien County and the state of Michigan for many years. Now he awaits the outcome of his appeals hearing at 10 a.m. on May 11 at the Appellate Court in Grand Rapids. He will not be present, but supporters from across the region are expected to attend and hold a press conference afterward. His attorney and the ACLU of Michigan will argue the appeal. The National Lawyers Guild also submitted a friend of the court brief.

Pinkney’s supporters have been vigilant in their support of this case which has received attention around the country, even internationally. But the corruption runs deep from Berrien County to state officials. Despite press conferences, requests for meetings, and phone calls, Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington has refused to seriously address the harassment and false misconduct tickets at Marquette Branch Prison. Michigan Governor Snyder has ignored requests to pardon Pinkney.

Meanwhile, Snyder and others have poisoned the entire city of Flint, but those most responsible for this genocide remain in office. Flint is still reeling from the devastating effects of lead-contaminated water on residents, especially children, and is still fighting for clean water, replacement of corroded pipes, care for long-term health consequences, and for those responsible to be held accountable. Detroit continues to fight against water shutoffs, the state’s takeover of public schools, the selling off of public property, and more. Justice has not been delivered to any poor, predominantly Black city in Michigan despite the evidence, the press, and the attention from notable celebrities: Michael Moore, Erin Brockovich, and Rachel Maddow to name a few.

The attempts to isolate and silence Pinkney have been severe: sentenced up to 10 years, phone rights revoked without provocation, transported 500 miles away from family and supporters, threatened by corrections officers daily, unfounded charges of misconduct, denial of proper medical care, tampering of mail from legal counsel, and the list goes on.

Why have such extreme measures been taken against 67-year-old husband, father, minister, and community organizer Rev. Edward Pinkney? Because he is the champion, the heart, the ace-in-the-hole for anyone fighting for equality and justice for poor and disenfranchised Americans.

Rev. Edward Pinkney must be freed now because he is innocent, because he is in danger, and because his presence is sorely needed to help lead the fight for justice for the people.

More articles by:

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail